The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) came to an agreement today, with support from Indigenous leaders, to help Indigenous families who are choosing to be on the land as part of the territory’s response to COVID-19. The federal government, through ISC, is providing $2.6 million in federal funding, which will be administered by the Territorial government through their existing partnerships with regional and community-based Indigenous governments.
Consistent with recommendations of the Northwest Territories’ Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, the planned northern community “At Home On The Land” initiative is aligned with broader public health recommendations for increased physical distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many families in the Northwest Territories have already begun to move onto the land to cabins and camps where they can maintain safer physical distances than if they were to remain in their home communities. The funds will support many other families who would not otherwise be able to be on the land because of the financial burden of acquiring necessary provisions, such as wood and fuel, food, First Aid equipment, transportation and other items suitable to their situation and culture.
Conventional physical distancing measures, like staying at home, that are recommended by Canada’s public health officials can have detrimental health effects in some Indigenous communities where housing can be overcrowded. When equipped with the proper supplies and equipment, going on the land in small groups is a positive and healthy form of physical distancing – an important measure in preventing and reducing the spread of the virus.
The GNWT is asking harvesters to keep in mind the advice of co-management partners and engage in safe and responsible harvesting practices when out on the land:
We know that our communities are at higher risk during this unprecedented pandemic. Elders and knowledge keepers have always told us ‘a day will come, when we will need to go to the land’ and now is that time. Our people are remarkably strong and powerful, and we will do what is required to keep each other safe.
Norman Yakeleya Dene National Chief
- Be prepared, dress for the conditions and bring a communications device
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
- Harvest only what you need
Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) officers will continue to conduct regular patrols and enforcement activities throughout the Northwest Territories (NWT), including the no harvest zone for Bathurst caribou.